What is high blood pressure, what are the symptoms and causes of hypertension and what is a normal reading?

MANY people worry about their blood pressure level as a high reading can be dangerous for your health.

If your blood pressure is too high it can put a strain on your heart, but what is a normal reading and what should you do if it's too high?

When your heart beats it moves blood around your body and, as it flows, the blood pushes against the sides of the blood vessels.

The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure.

What is a normal blood pressure reading?

The ideal blood pressure should be below 120 and over 80 (120/80) and most UK adults have blood pressure in the range 120 over 80 (120/80) to 140 over 90 (140/90).

The higher number is the systolic pressure, which is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The lower number is the diastolic pressure, the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

You can request a blood pressure reading at your local GP  as it hardly takes nay time, just a few minutes.

Blood pressure is measured with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer.

A cuff is placed around your arm and inflated with a pump until the circulation is cut off.

Afterwards a small valve slowly deflates the cuff, giving the doctor a chance to measure the blood pressure.

What are the risks if it is too high or too low?

If your blood pressure is too high – which is known as hypertension -, it puts extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

For the most part, the lower your blood pressure the better.

However, if you experience symptoms of dizziness, nausea, fainting and dehydration, then low blood pressure may be a problem.

If you experience any of those symptoms, it's best to see your GP.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

High blood pressure can present a serious risk of heart attacks and strokes if left untreated.

Some symptoms can include severe headaches, fatigue or confusion, vision problems and chest pains.

Sufferers of high blood pressure could also experience difficulty breathing, an irregular heartbeat, blood in the urine and pounding in the chest, neck, or ears.

If you feel any of these symptoms, it's best to get it checked with your GP.

What causes hypertension and how can can you reduce it?

The risk of hypertension is greater if you are over 65-years-old, are overweight, exercise rarely, and have a history of high blood pressure in the family.

You can take steps to lower your blood pressure by losing weight, which is helped by increasing exercise and eating a healthy diet.

Doctors also recommend reducing alcohol intake and cutting out smoking.

Reducing the sodium in your diet is also a good step to reducing bloody pressure, so make sure you read the labels on food, and avoid eating processed meats and canned veg where possible.

If you can't reduce it by natural methods, your doctor can then prescribe you medication.

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